Fortnite, released and developed by Gears of War developers Epic Games was originally received in a rather lacklustre fashion – The game had a somewhat small community behind it (At least bigger than either Lawbreakers or Battleborn, at least!), and was released in a two word state that I guarantee most gamers are sick of hearing…

No, not “completed game”, or “final release”; Early Access.

Yep, Epic Games really did put this title out as an Early Access title – Why? If I was a conspiracy theorist, I’d question that they weren’t confident that the base game they developed (Being the “Save the World” campaign) wasn’t good enough.

So what did they decide to do with their precious development time on this still-in-development title? Rip off one of the most popular emerging sub genres in recent memory; Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds’ introduction to a refined Battle Royale experience – 100 Players are set loose on a large, single map with scattered weapons, and the last person standing at the end wins.

Boasting it’s clearly Worms-inspired aesthetic, Fortnite decided to stop developing it’s single player content, and work near-exclusively on the inclusion of this “Hip, new mode”, because that’s what all the cool kids now like, and where the market’s direction is going.

Saying this, though, Epic Games decided to tackle this genre a little differently, putting just a unique-enough twist on the format to stand out – Building mechanics, and being completely free, even if you don’t own the base game. Tackling the big shocker of the two, yes, Epic Games released this large content update for absolutely nothing, even to players on any platform (Being PS4, Xbox One and PC) who didn’t own the base game, allowing them to access every feature of Fortnite: Battle Royale – The gamemode also features zero microtransactions, unlike the base game which featured single player microtransactions for weaponry, characters and traps; it was certainly a breath of fresh air to see Epic dipping their toes into the water instead of belly flopping into it loaded with microtransactions, wait to play mechanics and bloated character customisation – Oddly enough, it felt kind of pure.

Interestingly, there literally is nothing that can charge you in the free Battle Royale mode; no popups, no rankings, no levels, no unlocks, no loot boxes,  no EXP, no upgrades, no weapons to buy, no additional characters, no energy meter or wait-to-play mechanics… It’s the now-rare exception where everything is absolutely free. You don’t even need PS+ or Xbox Live Gold to play, either, defying many expectations – “A PUBG clone I can play on my consoles or PC that I DON’T have to buy and DOESN’T have microtransactions?!”; I know, it feels like a dream…

Mentioning the building mechanics from earlier, players in the base game have the ability to harvest Wood, Stone and Metal from their surroundings to build cover, bases and traps to fend off zombie hordes; whilst there aren’t any zombie hordes in Fortnite: Battle Royale, there IS the ability to build whatever you like in the world, on any scale using the three above materials and the exact same tools as the base game; have someone trying to snipe you? Build a metal wall between you. Want to trap someone and fool them on the top of a tower? Build a small square enclosure and fill it with spike floor traps, a ceiling electric traps, and wall shock traps to guarantee a kill; maybe someone’s done the aforementioned and is camping on top of a large wooden tower with a sniper rifle? Knock down the tower supports and watch that baby crumble!

This opens up a lot of opportunities for player tactics in Fortnite: Battle Royale, being able to out-flank opponents that may be in otherwise impossible-to-combat positions by manoeuvring around them with built or destroyed terrain. It’s surprising how effective this is, especially during tense moments within the game. Just like in traditional PUBG fashion, however, an ever-enclosing circular barrier prevents you from camping in built castles and structures for too long, unless you get lucky and just so happen to build inside of the final random area of the match.

One issue, however, that I have with Fortnite: Battle Royale, is how it’s weapons are balanced… Or rather how they aren’t. It’s clear that four types of weapons absolutely dominate the multiplayer scene in this game mode – The Assault Rifle, Burst Assault Rifle, RPG and Bolt-Action Sniper Rifle. If you see any of these weapons, make a beeline towards them and you’ll be set as long as you have sufficient ammunition; weaponry can come in five differing ranks too, similar to Borderlands featuring White, Green, Blue, Purple and Orange variants of each weapon, each with somewhat unique skins and glows to identify them – Things such as damage, range and accuracy improve as the weapon’s rank goes higher, meaning that the luckiest players that get those coveted Orange weapons have a significant advantage over those who are running just white weapons. Some types of items are also left out of this ranking, such as Grenades and Bandages, which I feel may benefit from being included.

However, the ranking system isn’t what’s inherently wrong with the weapons in Fortnite: Battle Royale; it’s just simply how other weapons are treated – Semi-Auto Pistols are relatively good but suffer poor accuracy, Revolvers have poor shooting speeds and reload times, Pump Action Shotguns are just plain inaccurate unless you literally touch someone with your gun, Semi Auto Shotguns are debilitated by a massive bullet spread and poor per-bullet damage, SMG’s are just horrid unless you’re up close and getting headshot after headshot, and the Semi Auto Sniper Rifle has such poor accuracy, especially when trying to shoot multiple shots. It’s certainly not impossible to kill someone with a Burst Assault Rifle at a medium-long range, but it’s certainly hard without one of your own.

Matchmaking too suffers a bit from bad lag and long load times, especially during the initial “Drop” period when everyone descends onto the map below, and can be quite annoying when you’re trying to snipe an unsuspecting combatant only for them to pop to the side a little bit and dodge your shot, only because you didn’t aim where they may’ve been in 5 seconds. Another thing to note is that there is a bit of disparity between the PC and Console versions of the game – As it stands currently, the only difference at the moment is that the PC version has groups and player party matchmaking where the Console versions do not.

One other negative to note, though, is that camping has taken a turn for the worse, with the most egregious offender being Bush Campers, people that find sufficiently large bushes and hide in them, allowing them to see their surroundings and shoot perfectly fine, but not be seen in contrast; the number of games I’ve lost to people sitting in bushes with an Orange Assault Rifle just waiting for me to stroll by is abhorrent, and, in my opinion, should be nerfed in some way, shape or form.

All in all there’s not much else to say about Fortnite: Battle Royale; it’s an enjoyable PUBG clone that injects a bit of itself into the formula in successful, tactical and enjoyable ways, however it suffers greatly from balancing and network issues that ultimately makes you wish you were just playing the progenitor to this sub genre. The best thing about it, really, is that it’s free to play with no microtransactions.

I give Fortnite: Battle Royale a 6.5 / 10.